The latest winner of the Talbot Collection Cork Community, Business and Sports Awards is Billie Jean Sargent’s Rhythm Dance Company and East Cork School of Performing Arts.
The awards scheme is sponsored by Talbot Collection Cork along with award sponsors AIB Midleton and Ballincollig.
Billie Jean herself always loved to dance and trained with the late Donna Daly Blyth in Cork’s CSN dance course in 1991 before heading to London and eventually settling back in her hometown of Midleton, where she set up her
school of performing arts.
The East Cork Dance School – Billie Jean’s Rhythm Dance Company and School of Performing Arts – opened its doors in the early nineties in a small room in the Old Convent School opposite St Mary’s Terrace, Midleton. As the school grew and developed they moved to the upstairs room in the Community Centre and they now occupy a large function room in the Market Green Shopping Centre.
The school is a pre-professional school of performing arts with 22 classes held in East Cork on a weekly basis. Billie Jean says that she started out with 15 students and with a lot of hard work and dedication to dance teaching there is
currently a waiting list for September 2018.
Past students of the school have gone on to qualify with a diploma in dance and some have achieved degrees, performing in the West End and abroad.
On Saturday last, Billie Jean’s Rhythm Dance Company, with 31 pupils ranging from 10 to 23 years of age, were victorious in the first year of Ireland’s Got Talent at the Helix in Dublin. Billie Jean said that they are overjoyed with the win. The group returned home to a hero’s welcome in Midleton with crowds gathering to greet them in Market Green Shopping Centre on Sunday evening.
“We are over the moon,” a very hoarse Billie Jean said. “We were screaming when we won and it has been constant talking since, so I lost my voice. We didn’t get to bed until about four in the morning.”
The group won against thousands of acts, who auditioned over a period of months before the live shows. Three of Billie Jean’s children perform in the group, including 14-year-old Nell, who has been battling an inoperable brain tumour since she was three. The excitement of the TV show was made all the sweeter when the family found out in January that the tumour had gotten smaller.
As part of their Ireland’s Got Talent prize, the dance troupe will have their own prime time Christmas television special.
Billie Jean paid tribute to her performing arts students and especially their parents, who have had to fund all the expenses of this experience – travel costs, accommodation, costumes etc.